It is autumn on the ice sheet; Nights are growing longer and darker, days ever slightly colder, the winds are variable and often brisk. We often have freezing fog and rime grows on everything.
It’s been a month since the last plane departed from Summit Station and the five of us have settled into our roles and routines. The two science techs monitor the year-round science on station, troubleshooting issues, launching weather and ozone balloons, conducting accumulation surveys, and GPS measurements to calibrate ICEBridge data. The Mechanic keeps our lights on and water running – but he is also busy catching up on all the little projects from summer, tuning up snowmobiles, winterizing equipment, and cleaning the shop. Our heavy equipment operator has put the CAT D7 bulldozer to work completing the winter berm and pushing snow away from the station buildings. He’s made significant progress, but there is an infinite amount of snow and he’ll be busy until his last day here. As the station manager I have familiarized myself with the station and all the little changes that have occurred in the last year. I do all the admin/paperwork/email for the station as well as lead up safety and communications. This past month I’ve put my heavy equipment skills to work in the loaders cleaning up station, consolidating cargo, placing items on the winter berm, and doing water runs.
Mostly we’ve been busy preparing for winter – making sure everything is up above grade, flagged, and photographed. We’ve winterized the summer buildings and moved them up to the berms. Air vents are covered, windows and doors secured, everything that shouldn’t freeze has been moved inside. Heavy equipment that won’t be used through the winter is parked up on berms, the air intake and exhaust taped up, the batteries disconnected and moved inside.
The station is nice and quite with just 5 people. While the summers are exciting and non-stop, the winters are slow and steady with time to catch up on projects. The summer professional cook is missed, however everyone takes turns cooking now and it’s fun. If nothing else, we’re burning so many calories in the cold and altitude that everything tastes good!
We’ve had a lot of overcast and cloudy days this month, though we’ve also had a few amazing sundogs and other atmospheric optics – more on that in my next post. Temps have dipped down to the -30F range, but our average day is around 0F to -10F with 10kt winds.
Summit Station is at 72°N. For comparison Barrow, AK is at 71°N, Eureka Nunavut is at 79°N, Reykjavik Iceland is at 64°N, Longyearbyen Svalbard is at 78°N, and McMurdo Station in Antarctica is 77°S.
At 72°N we’ll have two and a half months (10 weeks) of 24 hour darkness, but unlike at the South Pole where there is one long day and one long night, we do have some day and some night for most of the year. In mid-August when the last plane left the sun was rising at 0305 and setting at 2205. Today it rose at 0555 and will set at 1857.
Below is a graph showing sunrise/sunset times for Summit in 2016 (note: times will shift one hour back in Oct for daylight savings)